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Saturday September 18th

Chapel Hill/Carrboro Human Rights Center almost closes

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The Chapel Hill and Carrboro Human Rights Center will remain open.

After nearly closing because of a lack of funding, the Chapel Hill/Carrboro Human Rights Center will live to fight another day.

Last week, the center was almost forced to close its doors at 107 Barnes St. due to a shortage of funds, said Judith Blau, the center’s executive director.

HUMAN RIGHTS CENTER

The Chapel Hill/Carrboro Human Rights Center was founded in February 2009 and runs several programs:

  • The center runs education programs, including an after-school tutoring program at Mary Scroggs Elementary School.
  • With the Farmer FoodShare program, volunteers bring food to the center from farmers’ markets on Saturdays.
  • The center also runs a community garden, was started by UNC students.

The center — which was created in 2009 to provide housing and education resources to low-income people and immigrants — was relying on money from the sale of its two apartments in Collins Crossing Apartment Homes to stay afloat.

Blau, a retired UNC sociology professor, said employees were unsure if the sale would go through in time — leading employees of the center to fear they would be unable to make mortgage payments on the house that serves as the center’s headquarters.

But this week, Empowerment Inc., a Chapel Hill nonprofit that helps homeless or disabled people find affordable housing, secured the resources to finalize its purchase of the center’s apartments.

“We started to fall off the cliff, and we saved ourselves,” said Blau, who previously took out personal loans to pay the mortgage on the center.

“The problem was that I bought the house on a mortgage. It was hard to continue paying now that I am retired.”

The sale will close on May 1, said Delores Bailey, executive director of Empowerment Inc.

Bailey said the organization applied for money from the HOME Investment Partnership Program to buy the two units at Collins Crossing about a year and a half ago.

Bailey said the non-profit’s request for funding was approved, but that was before a $5,406 assessment fee was levied on all Collins Crossing unit owners.

The fee, which paid for repairs to the complex’s decaying stairwells, forced Empowerment Inc. to come up with more money.

“It took longer than expected,” Bailey said.

Bailey said it has also become harder for organizations like the Human Rights Center to secure funds in recent years.

“Banks are not helping like they used to,” she said. “That makes it more difficult for anyone to do the good work that Dr. Blau does.”

Victor Acosta, who advocates for day laborers through the center, said it has been difficult to obtain grants.

“Had it not been for those apartments, the center would have shut down,” he said. “Many organizations are competing for grants.”

But the money from the apartment sale is just a temporary solution, and Acosta said the center will continue to apply for grants and reach out to Carrboro residents for donations.

In the meantime, the Human Rights Center will continue to operate normally.

“The HRC serves the community. It’s not like a traditional charity,” Blau said.

“We’re an intermediary between the refugees and the students.”

Contact the desk editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

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